Wips was a big, gentle man. He also was a gentleman, and one of the friendliest people I’ve ever known. He was funny. He was wise. He was my friend. My big, wise, good friend. Even though he was 20 years my senior, he took a liking to me and stopped by my office every day he was in town.
Wips was a natural philosopher. He thought deeply on many subjects, and knew a lot about many things. He was in industrial and public relations with the Illinois Central Railway. Wips didn’t always tell you when he was going to give you some advice. Sometimes it just flowed out of him naturally.
Seeing him dig into a container of ice cream was something. You will never see a 50-something man so happy. He would look up, grin, and say, “Everybody ought to eat more ice cream.” No explanation needed. Who wouldn’t want to be that happy?
“I’m taking Frank fishing tomorrow,” he said licking his lips.
“You are? Why?” I asked. Frank was a man we were talking with about a business venture he wanted us to invest in.
“I never do business with anybody until I’ve taken him fishing. I always drive, and I purposely forget the food and water. If he whines and complains all day, I pass on the deal, because it’s just as hot, hungry, and dry in my end of the boat as it is in his end of the boat. He’ll give up on you at the first sign of trouble.”
We passed on the deal.
One day Wips dropped by my office to congratulate me for winning some recognition for my newspaper from the Tennessee Press Association.
“Harv,” he said, “I can see you’re going to be really successful one of these days. You’re going to make lots of money, but don’t go buying lots of stuff to show everybody how well off you are.”
“Why not,” I asked.
“Because,” he said, “if people think you’re in the big leagues, they’ll start throwing you fast balls, curve balls, and sliders. They’re hard to hit.”
I dropped by Wips’ house one day just to pass the time, and he was painting his fence. When he saw me he stopped painting, didn’t say a word while he put down his paint and brush. Then with sweat dripping from his face onto his already-wet overalls, he looked up at me and said, “Harv, I’m older than you, so I’m going to give you some advice.”
“Okay,” I said. “Shoot.”
“Don’t ever buy anything you have to paint or feed.”
All of Wips’ advice was good, but this piece of advice is better than most. I’ve proven it over and over.